Police Chiefs in Two Departments Resign as Law Enforcement Face Reckoning Over Racial Injustice

The North Star has dropped its paywall during this COVID-19 crisis so that pertinent information and analysis is available to everyone during this time. This is only possible because of the generous support of our members. We rely on these funds to pay our staff to continue to provide high-quality content. If you are able to support, we invite you to do so here.

The Rochester Police chief and the department’s entire command staff resigned on September 8, following ongoing protests over the death of Daniel Prude, who died of asphyxiation in March while in police custody. News of the resignation came on the same day that the Dallas Police chief announced plans for her resignation.

Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary announced he would retire after 20 years on the force. Singletary and the rest of the command staff will be able to collect from their pension and health benefits as their departure is a retirement instead of an outright resignation, NBC News noted.

In a press release, Singletary said that the events in the last week were “an attempt to destroy my character and integrity.”

“The members of the Rochester Police Department and the Greater Rochester Community know my reputation and know what I stand for,” Singletary said in his resignation letter. “The mischaracterization and the politicization of the actions that I took after being informed of Mr. Prude’s death is not based on facts, and is not what I stand for.”

The Rochester Police Department came under fire after video emerged of Prude’s death in March. The 41-year-old Black man was experiencing a mental health crisis when Rochester Police officers put him in a “spit hood” and restrained him until he lost consciousness. Following the video’s release, protesters have taken to Rochester’s streets to demand justice.

Prude’s death was not publicly disclosed until his family placed an open records request, which forced the city to release officers’ body camera footage. Prude’s family accused city officials of covering up his death in a bid to protect the officers involved, The New York Times reported.

The attention on Prude’s death prompted the suspension of seven police officers. New York’s attorney general also announced that she would impanel a grand jury as part of her office’s investigation into Prude’s death.

Rochester Police Deputy Chief Joseph Morabito and Commander Fabian Rivera also announced their retirements on September 8. Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Mark Simmons and Commander Henry Favor were demoted to the rank of lieutenant, NBC News reported.

Mayor Lovely Warren acknowledged on Tuesday that there may be others in the police force who may decide to leave. Warren noted that Singletary, who will remain in charge through the end of September, was not asked to resign. However, she said that the resignation came after “new information brought to light today that I had not previously seen before.”

“While the timing and tenor of these resignations is difficult, we have faced tough times before,” she said. “We will get through this together.”

Tameshay Prude, Prude’s sister, filed a civil rights suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York on September 8, against the City of Rochester, Chief Singletary and the officers involved in her brother’s death.

Police Reckonings Around the Country

While Singletary announced his retirement in Rochester, another police chief announced her resignation in Dallas. Police Chief U. Reneé Hall, the first Black woman to lead the Dallas Police Department, revealed she planned to resign this year. Hall, who said she received inquiries about “future career” opportunities, will remain with the department until the end of the year, The Dallas Morning News reported.

“These past three years have been saturated with a series of unimaginable events that individually and collectively have never happened in the city of Dallas,” Hall wrote in a letter to City Manager T.C. Broadnax.

The Dallas Morning News noted that Hall’s resignation comes on the heels of inconsistencies by the department in its after-action report on the first couple of nights of Black Lives Matter protests earlier in the summer. Protests erupted around the country after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by police on May 25 in Minneapolis.

Hall failed to release much information over the department’s use of chemical weapons and less-lethal ammunition during the June 1 arrests of 674 protesters on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. The lack of information, combined with an investigative report by the Dallas newspaper, led Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot to launch an investigation into law enforcement’s actions that day.

In light of Floyd’s death, and the death of countless others, activists have pushed to defund police departments around the country. Those calling for the defunding of police say that money allocated to law enforcement can and should be reallocated to other community services. Some communities are already cutting their police budgets and redirecting those funds to social services and alternative forms of public safety.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.